This assignment will look at sexual health posters and the way they are viewed by different genders, age and culture. I will be analysing just what the posters are saying, how they are presented and how different cultural groups interpret them. I will be looking at how different communities are represented within these posters and just what message they are giving to young people.
It will look how they use stereotypical images to get the message across to the different genders It will explore how male sexuality is managed at visual level in sexual health posters and examines the notions of masculinity, gender and sexuality which form the imagery within them. The visual representations play an important part in shaping people’s views of different products; they also play a major part in how society views different genders. Picture images help to reinforce what a person believes to be right or wrong, it can also clarify the message and bring understanding of the written word means.
Thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be looked at and considered when making decisions, which are reflected within these images. Images appeal to a far wider audience and help people to identify with the products and scene, which is being depicted before them. According to Stockdale (1989) the target audience’s self-identification with the imagery of health promotion materials is therefore a basic prerequisite for their effectiveness.
Male sexuality has been depicted in many forms of visual art; these include studies of public art (Melosh, 1993), the images of men in antenatal and parenting literature (Graham, 1997; Meerabeau, 1991; Jackson, 1994), images in comics (Boyd, 1991) and advertising (millum, 1975; Doty, 1993; Jackson1994). After looking at all these forms I decided to focus my assignment on sexual health leaflets/ posters and the way males are represented in contrast to females. The images helped me to gain an insight into how sexual health professionals view male sexuality has opposed to female sexuality.
The analysis of visual texts can be looked at from three approaches, what is in the producer’s mind, how the individual views it, and what is actually in the image on the poster. I will be using the third approach to bring clarity to the images and posters (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996). The methodological approaches developed from social semiotic theory, this assumes that linguistic and visual grammatical forms (the grammar of visual design) are formal rules, which are not isolated from meaning (Halliday, 1995 cited in Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996).
This method makes meaning through spatial configurations of visual elements in western societies. Meaning is encoded in the structures of images: the form of representation; the representation of people, objects and landscape, the composition and its modality and medium. The description and interpretation of these structures forms the basis of the social semiotic approach to analysing visual text. (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996. ) Western culture tends to polarize the representation of males by assuming that all men are either gladiators or wimps whilst females are seen as either virgins or vamps.
The use of colour helps to influence how each person is interpreted. White and red are the colours, which spring to mind mostly when contrasting emotions are to be expressed as are black and white. These colours form the basis for the posters based around sexual health. The posters show that men and women are represented as equally active, however the nature and occasion of men and women’s action in the images differs. Women are often represented as being less active participants in images around sex and men are perceived to be the initiators.
The types of sexual knowledge attributed to both genders via their actions differ, the way one person looks at another and other body traits can often be misleading. With reference to poster one and two the use of symbols and props are used to signal competitiveness between men, as a sign of their heterosexuality. The car and motorbike bring masculinity to the posters, with both being symbols of male virility and sexual prowess in western society. Each poster has issues to address and information to get across so the image setting is important.
The images show the level of sexual contact, male and female sexual control and whether sex as taken place (poster 4. ) The settings indicate that gender is represented as having control over different sexual actions, and that once you have had a drink is not always the best time to discuss contraception and safe sex. Whilst the images used promote heterosexuality, the norm within western society, the presence of women in these posters makes them more acceptable and easier to consume by society.
The images help to reinforce sexual norms and values and represent heterosexual reproduction or sexual infection as the context in which sex occurs. The appearances of the participants and their roles are depicted in a way that bring about stereotypical images all the posters except one shows the women with either long, untied or unbrushed hair which seem to indicate that they are sexually unrestrained, compared to the image in poster three where the woman as long tied back hair this is used to emphasise that she is in control.
In all the posters the men have short well groomed hair suggesting that they are all powerful, virile and in control. If they had been depicted having long scruffy hairstyles this would have depicted their loss of control and their excess usage of alcohol. In general representations of messiness visually demonstrate a lack of sexual restraint and orderliness is associated with sexual control. With exception of poster three there is no nudity but when nudity is shown it is shown discreetly and is an indicator that sex is generally planned or about to take place.
The amount of skin, which is revealed, is a visual indicator of sexual availability. (Poster 3. ) The tight dress worn by the woman exposes the contours of her body, her shoulders, neck and face indicating that she is receptive to sex. The men are depicted in a way, which shows the conventional, dominant masculinity in relation to their sexual prowess, and the representation of women within the images confers heterosexuality upon the men and signals the need to protect oneself from potential disease.
In poster two the upright motorbike and open faced helmet covey a strong sense of individuality- this is not an average bike and I am not an average bloke and touches on the competitiveness between men whilst drawing a parallel between sex and sport The individuality in men is often emphasised by their height, age, ethnicity, different clothes and style of hair . The similarities in these posters suggests that whilst being an individual is a defining feature of being a man, masculinity is an experience which bonds all men together.
Thus suggesting that the roles of men and women can be categorised by their appearances alone The images represent traditional male sexuality as being predatory, promiscuous, protective, penis- centred, competitive as suggested by the sport setting. The other images suggest that other qualities are non- traditional and new to male sexuality including emotional involvement and taking responsibility for the sexual act. In contrast the female is shown as being sexually unknowing, anxious or passive and responsible.
The qualities that are represented within the images as being new gender traits to females include sexual planning, being assertive, being sexually active and the loss of romantic love being the oasis in any relationship. This shows that both gender are indeed the opposite of each other and that they are further apart than they are in reality, and different in every respect. The images show that both gender have different sexual concerns and sexual goals. It shows that the roles of men and women occupy are polarised; men take risks, women protect; men are simple; women are complex, and men are physical, women are emotional,
When a condom is being promoted in the image the male is seen to have everything from a motorbike or convertible sports car to a willing sexual partner. In poster 4 She looks safe showing a couple in an apartment about to enter a bedroom, alcohol is represented as the reality and the lack of sexual restraint is the real danger. When in reality it is the likely to be a combination of both. The research shows that the images aimed at young people in general associate sexual irresponsibility with male sexuality. (Marsiglio, 1993) The poster3 suggest that sex for men focuses on risk and female action focuses on sexual protection.
Poster 4 symbolises that men are sexually aware but they do not present women as sexually innocent more that the woman is sexually compliant, compared to poster3 seems to be misrepresentative towards males and men are depicted as being less responsible enforcing a stereotypical view that men can not be trusted to make the right decision and thus can not be trusted. It also seems to emphasise that women are able to ignore their sexual desires and male sexuality is more potent than female sexuality. The images display that sex is heterosexual, reproductive and sexual infection is a dominant but subtle theme on all the posters.
The images on the posters do not acknowledge men’s fears of sexual competence regarding condom use Instead they focus on male incompetence and associate condom use with sexual success. The posters do not represent men in away that encourages them to think before sex as in posters 3 and 4 show that the men have not even considered using protection by the words that accompany the images. This then also sheds light on the myth that it is a girls responsibility to take care of the precaution before sex in order to prevent pregnancy and cast the woman has the person solely responsible for making sure her partner wears a condom.
Due to the misrepresentation of young men the visual image is very negative, and presents an unrealistic image of female sexuality. The images visualise young women as the decision-makers who have sole responsibility and the power to say no condom, no sex. This traditional approach to health material assumes a type of relationship, a degree of trust and female power, which rarely exists amongst young people.
This approach seems to ignore the cultural expectation that women are sexually passive, it also fails to acknowledge that sexual coercion is a common feature in young people’s early sexual experiences. Danielson, 1990) After looking at these posters I found that overall male sexuality was misrepresented by the professionals who had designed these posters to educate people about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and the usage of condoms are really unacceptable and if they were put into words they would have to be worded very different to what the poster actually is. These posters need to be made more welcoming, less excluding and ridiculing of young men’s feelings.
When professionals use posters to trigger discussion and challenge views of what it is to be a man, it is necessary to ensure that the images do not present a narrow view of male masculinity and female naivety or power. Professionals also need to be aware of the ways in which images confer and deny access to specific roles on the basis of gender and promote narrow constraining versions of what it is to be a man or woman and the roles of responsibility.